Did the gates of hell prevail against the church? – Matthew 16:16-18

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) teaches that there was a great apostasy after the time of the apostles. After this supposed complete apostasy of all believers, the true Christian church ceased to exist on the earth until it was restored by Joseph Smith less than 200 years ago. However, this teaching of the LDS church contradicts the promise of Jesus Christ himself:

Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:16-18).

Jesus stated that he would build his church and the gates of hell would not prevail against it. So, either Jesus was wrong and his church was destroyed or the LDS church is wrong and there never was an apostasy. I am going to stake my eternity on the promise of Jesus. Shouldn’t you?



Filed under Church, False Religions

11 responses to “Did the gates of hell prevail against the church? – Matthew 16:16-18

  1. Just note that Christ said he would build it on a specific foundation. Thus, once the church left that foundation it lost the promise.
    Any church built on the foundation specified cannot fall; but once a church leaves that foundation it cannot stand. This is what happened in the early church which led to the apostasy.

  2. Hello again Shem. Thanks for taking time to comment. Can you help me understand better your position on this matter?

    1. What was the foundation that Jesus built his church upon?
    2. Do you agree that he build both the foundation and the church?
    3. What is the evidence that the church left its foundation?
    4. What do mean by “early church”?

    Best regards,


  3. Hey, I can post now.

    Q. What was the foundation that Jesus built his church upon?
    A. Revelation and the Spirit. In this passage the word for Peter (meaning stone) and the word for rock are not the same. The first is a small stone, while the second is a large boulder or bedrock. Peter, or Cephas, was a name given to Simon which symbolized his role as seer and leader of the church. However, the rock of the foundation refers not to Peter and his calling as leader, but to the means by which his testimony was gains, and that it stated in verse 17 as a revelation from God to Peter. He is Peter, or the seer of the church, and upon the foundation of revelation from Heaven Christ would build his church, and as long as the church was always founded on that revelation the gates of Hell could not prevail against it.
    Please note that I do not think this refers to the current revelation had at that time, as that would not include most of the New Testament. This refers to a continuing revelation. Christ is telling Peter that as long as he leads the church as it is revealed to him from On High the church will never fail. However, once men got the leadership of the church that did not rely on this continuing revelation the church left its foundation and lost this promise.

    Q. Do you agree that he build both the foundation and the church?
    A. In a sense, as he did organize it and appoint its leaders in the beginning. However, in another no, as he left it to those leaders to preach and build up the Kingdom. He more laid the foundation and then built the framework, but left the rest of the work to other men.
    Of course, since it was the Father that sent the revelation, it could be said that it was the Father that built the Foundation, of which Christ is the cornerstone. We must always remember that Christ only did the will of the Father.

    Q. What is the evidence that the church left its foundation?
    A. As soon as they declared the Canon closed and that God would no longer reveal his will they left the foundation. When they denied the need for an appointed prophet. When men who had no authority through revelation from Heaven took the control of the church. These are all evidences that the church has left the foundation.

    Q. What do mean by “early church”?
    A. When I say the Early Church I am speaking to the time period of the Apostles. From Christ’s death to about AD 150. Possibly even a shorter time period. The Early church ceased to exist once the organization left the foundation. After that time the Christian religion went through several phases, but none of them help the full gospel and thus none of them could rightly be called the church of Christ.

  4. Shem,

    Thanks for the follow-up. Sorry for the hassle of not being able to post on this older blog post. Unfortunately, so much of what you write is contrary to the Bible. I don’t have time to respond to every point, but a few really jumped out at me.

    1. Your have a very low view of Jesus. Basically you are implying that Jesus did a terrible job of laying the foundation, selecting the early church leaders, and building his church. If Jesus failed in building his church that would prevail against the gates of hell, what would make you believe that Joseph Smith has succeeded? Is Smith greater than Jesus? (Well, Smith actually claimed that, so maybe you too believe it).

    2. Peter was never described as a seer. This is an idea that the LDS church is forcing back into the history so they can say that their current structure is just like that of the very early church. There is no historical support for it. And, such an important point would have been picked up in the canon of Scripture and all the other writings from the early church. We have such great support for the historicity of the New Testament. Because the various writings of the early church were scattered throughout the region, there was no way for one person or group to suppress and/or change these writings.

    3. I know that you view continuing revelation as a good thing, but I see it as only shifting sand. What is today’s doctrine can be tomorrow’s heresy in the LDS church (for example, many of the teachings which Brigham Young considered important are now considered heresy). Even the relatively young LDS Scriptures like the Book of Mormon have been changed numerous times in the short history of the church. How do you know that the beliefs you have today will not be considered heresy in 50 years?

    I would encourage you to use the same standards for reviewing Scriptures and history relevant only to the LDS church that you do when you review the Holy Bible and the history of the Christian church. You seem to have a double standard.



    • First of all, all of this is subjective interpretation so to say it is unbiblical is not truly accurate. It is more accurate to say that you don’t see this in the Bible.

      1. I have an extremely high view of Christ, and I would ask you not to make such false claims. The implications you are prying out of what I said are not really there.
      “you are implying that Jesus did a terrible job of laying the foundation, selecting the early church leaders, and building his church.”
      No, I am saying, and very directly, that he did a great job, but that the people of the day did a terrible job afterwards. A man can build a great house but if careless caretakers are placed in it then it will crumble around them. The thing is that Christ and Heavenly Father will not force anyone to do righteously, but allows all their agency. If designing men use their agency to teach false doctrine and convince members to follow after them then it is not the fault of Christ, but of those men.
      For instance, after Peter was martyred and the Bishop of Rome claimed authority to lead the church he did not do so with the approval or God (in my opinion). However, God allowed him to make the claim, and then allowed others to decide for themselves if they would accept the claim and follow him. When they did they lost the true gospel and left the foundation that Christ build.
      ” If Jesus failed in building his church that would prevail against the gates of hell”
      But he didn’t fail, and never said he did. Those who remained built on that foundation have triumphed over Hell (more properly translated here as death) and will be resurrected into eternal glory. Remember that I said that once the people ceased to be built on the proper foundation they ceased to be the church. The church never failed, but people failed to remain part of that church and thus people failed.
      “Is Smith greater than Jesus? (Well, Smith actually claimed that, so maybe you too believe it).”
      No, and no one has ever claimed this. Yes I have read where people try to make his words say this, but that was not his intention. No one born on this Earth is greater than Christ. In fact, nothing in all the creations of the Father is greater than Christ.

      2. “Peter was never described as a seer.”
      No, he wasn’t it. However, it is perfectly agreeable to the text to say that he was the leader of the church, and since prophets have lead the church of God from the time of Adam it is in keeping with the text to say he is a prophet. Cephas means stone, and the Urim and Thummum were two stones used in the Old Testament by Seers. Then there is 1 Samuel 9: 9 “Beforetime in Israel, when a man went to inquire of God, thus he spake, Come, and let us go to the seer: for he that is now called a Prophet was beforetime called a Seer”. So to call him a seer is not entirely without support in the Bible as you claim.

      3. Nothing that Brigham Young actually taught has ever been called a heresy. The problem is that people frequently confuse what he taught or misunderstand his words (and some even intentionally twist them). There is not a single doctrine of the church that has ever changed. Practice and ceremony have, but not doctrine.
      As to changes to the Book of Mormon, new Editions of any book are going to correct errors in previous publications that crept in by mistake. That is nothing new. Even given all the changes, no one has yet proven that the message or meaning of the Book of Mormon has changed, even though many have tried.
      Continuing revelation is vital to the church of God, as it is through this medium that the organization and the members are shown what course to take at various times. Without this we are left to the reasoning of men to determine what is the proper course of actions, and we have all seen how great they are at things.

      Oh, and a final note, and do use the same standard. It may not be the standard you use, but I do not alter my methods or standards when studying any aspect of the gospel (or any truth for that matter).

      • Shem,

        While there are so many rabbit trails and falsehoods that could be addressed, I will focus only on your claim that nothing Brigham Young actually taught has ever been called a heresy. As just one (of what could be many examples) LDS prophet Brigham Young taught that Adam was God. For example, Journal of Discourses records this very clearly:

        “Now hear it, O inhabitants of the earth, Jew and Gentile, Saint and sinner! When our father Adam came into the garden of Eden, he came into it with a celestial body, and brought Eve, one of his wives, with him. He helped to make and organize this world. He is Michael, the Archangel, the Ancient of Days! about whom holy men have written and spoken—He is our Father and our God, and the only God with whom we have to do. Every man upon the earth, professing Christians or non-professing, must hear it, and will know it sooner or later” (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 1:50-51).

        And Young taught multiple times that his sermons should be considered Scripture including:

        “I have never yet preached a sermon and sent it out to the children of men, that they may not call Scripture” (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 13:95).

        Yet, this is considered false doctrine by the LDS church today.


  5. “Yet, this is considered false doctrine by the LDS church today.”

    Not exactly. One must understand the doctrine and then they will see how this is still part of it.
    “Who hath appointed Michael your prince, and established his feet, and set him upon high, and given unto him the keys of salvation under the counsel and direction of the Holy One, who is without beginning of days or end of life.” (D&C 78: 16)
    Adam (Michael) is the head or patriarch of this planet, and in the eternal economy he can be called the god of this Earth, for he rules over it, holding the keys of Salvation, under the direction of Christ (the Holy One).
    He is our Father, for he is the first and greatest patriarch of our race.
    He is our God, for he is the ruler of this earth, presiding over all his mortal posterity.
    He is also the God with which we will have the most direct dealings, as the Father and Christ rule over countless worlds. Think of religion (I will use my church). The Stake President is our president and the one with which we have most direct dealings. However, the President of the Church is still over him in authority, and the Stake President acts only as directed by the Church President.

    None of what Brigham Young says in this quote has ever been said to be false. What has been declared false is the idea that we worship Adam, or that Adam is Elohim; but then, Brigham Young never once claimed either of these.

  6. Might I point out that the self-contradiction in this?

    The LDS hold that there was a Great Apostasy — and so do you. Your whole faith is founded upon it, in fact. The whole premise of the Protestant Reformation, the whole reason for the Reformers’ break with the Catholic Church, was that the Church was “apostate” — that the truth faith of Christ had been lost and that they had to reclaim it. So, inherently, you do believe in the apostasy of Christ’s Church. And yes, you’re right, this contradicts the words of Jesus.

  7. Joseph,

    If I believed, as Rome teaches, that the church is defined by its organization, leadership structure, and buildings, then you would be absolutely correct. But, since I believe that the the New Testament word “ecclesia” refers to the called-out ones, the assembly of true believers, there is no contradiction. God has always preserved his elect “invisible” remnant throughout the ages even in the face of the corruption of the visible church.


    • Hi Dale,

      Yes, this is a common belief, along the lines of what’s called Baptist successionism. I don’t think it’s historically tenable — you have to associate yourself with some pretty nasty heretical groups along the way, like the Paulicians and Cathari, which were not “Christian” by any stretch.

      So my question: If you believe there was some “remnant” of true believers outside the Catholic Church, why are you reading about the Church Fathers, who were all Catholic and believed in “works’ salvation”?

  8. Joseph,

    No, this belief of a true remnant of believers is not along the lines of Baptist successionism. And, no, believing that there has always been a true remnant in no way requires that you embrace the heretics. Quite the contrary. The heretics are, by definition, not true believers.

    I also reject the idea that all of the church fathers were Roman Catholic. The church fathers were not unified in every point of doctrine and certainly did not all uniformly belief the full set of dogmatic believes that have evolved under the auspices of the Roman Catholic church over the centuries.

    Further, I know that the Roman Catholic church likes to effectively claim ownership of the church fathers. But the Roman Catholic has never infallibly defined either (1) a list of “approved” church fathers or (2) an infallible list of the accepted teachings of these approved church fathers.

    I can make a similar claim that all of church fathers were Protestant and they all rejected the heretical teachings that are dogmatically asserted by the current Roman Catholic church today. It is easy to make such broad, sweeping claims, but the church fathers were never uniform to allow either of us to do so. It is like claiming that my church fathers can beat up your church fathers.

    While many do not out of ignorance, we Protestants should gladly look to the church fathers for help in understanding doctrine, for inspiration for their defense of the faith, etc.